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What is Itea?

Alex Tree
Alex Tree

Itea is the genus classification given to 18 types of flowering plants. Most plant species that fall under this genus classification can be found in parts of northern America and Asia. They are mainly categorized as deciduous plants, meaning their leaves completely fall off during the colder parts of the year, usually between autumn and winter. Shrubs and trees that fall under this genus tend to be popular because of their small but fragrant flowers.

One common plant species that falls under this genus classification is the Itea virginica. This plant species is found in the United States, particularly in the country’s southeastern region. Also known as Virginia Sweetspire, this type of flowering plant is a hardy shrub with an appearance resembling a bottlebrush. Its fragrant white flowers make it a commonly used ornamental plant in gardens. Virginia Sweetspire grows best in very wet places and thus tends to thrive along the banks of rivers and streams.

Man mowing the grass
Man mowing the grass

Horticulturists have cultivated a number of varieties of Virginia Sweetspire. The Henry’s garnet is popular among these varieties, mainly because it is the most common commercially available variety. It is a compact shrub that grows between 3 to 4 feet (0.9 to 1.2 m) in height, and spreads between 4 to 6 feet (1.2 to 1.8 m) in width. The leaves of the Henry’s garnet are reddish-purple in color during its first year, but they turn green as it matures.

A less common variety of the Itea virginica is the Little Henry. It is referred to as such because it tends to be slightly smaller than the Henry’s Garnet when it matures, being about 3 feet (0.9 m) in both height and width. During the autumn season, the leaves of the Little Henry turn shades of red and purple. Its white flowers bloom between the months of June and July, releasing a light, sweet fragrance.

Another plant species that falls under this genus classification is the Itea illicifolia. Often referred by its common name, the Holly Sweetspire, it is a species that is widely found in the regions around western China. Unlike most other species that fall under this genus classification, the Itea illicifolia is classified as an evergreen. This means that its leaves do not fall off during the autumn and winter season. Another distinctive characteristic of the Holly Sweetspire is its greenish-white flowers that grow on long racemes, measuring between 6 to 12 inches (15 to 30 cm) long.

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